I never thought I’d be sharing my buffet procedure, but given that I see so many people doing it completely wrong and given that so many of my readers seem, like myself, to have an appetite (both literally and figuratively) for good food at decent (i.e. low) prices, it seemed almost rude to keep to myself what I’ve been doing at buffet dinners for years.
First, we need to understand that buffets are profitable purely because our manners or approach to meals are so inflexible that most of us refuse to approach this strategically; instead vaguely wandering around following our friends and taking the same plate of ingredients we probably would at home; a few pieces of meat, then some vegetable, perhaps a few potatoes there and sure we can always go back later. Wrong. That is absolutely the worst, most ridiculous approach to take at a buffet; after 2 or 3 of these pathetic courses you’ll be done, having not gotten true value for money and having the restaurant manager laugh all the way to the bank.
My approach however guarantees at least 4 courses if you play your cards right. Most importantly, do not under any circumstances follow or wander around the options with your friends; first go and take a solid walk around, open every pot or remove every lid and take a mental inventory in your mind of all the options. Grab a plate, here we go…
Course 1 – High-Value, Low-Occupancy
First we’re going to do a round of only what I like to call high-value, low-occupancy items. This includes things such as expensive meats; beef preferably, then fish, then chicken. Take nothing else; use gravy or sauce only if absolutely required to help with getting the food down. There shouldn’t be so much as a hint of a vegetable on the plate, unless it’s some kind of Italian truffle. The aim here is to get a suitable flavour of everything – and don’t be put off by the chef’s often-miserly portions. I hate going to a buffet and the chef cuts you two almost invisibly pieces of meat; request more, make up an excuse and get creative if needs be. Next course…
Course 2 – High-Value, High-Occupancy
This is where we start getting somewhat creative with our approach; going for items like beef Bolognese, stroganoff, chicken Marengo, things along those lines that are naturally coated in sauce and include, unfortunately, some additional vegetables which will occupy more space. Nevertheless, while the meats may be of slightly cheaper quality,
you should nevertheless go ahead and fill your plate right up with these items.
Course 3 – Low-Value, High-Occupancy
As things start to fill up, rest comfortably a few minutes knowing you’ve already eaten a good portion of your way towards ensuring non-profitability for the eatery in question. As you’ll be getting full at this point; it’s best to move immediately onwards towards heavier low-value items. As vegetables and the suchlike low-value items can be somewhat dull, I wouldn’t be afraid at this stage to mix in a few of your favourites from Course 1 not only to ensure variation, but also that you continue to make good on maximising value for money, which at a buffet, should be the primary aim. I know this sounds somewhat odd (but it makes sense, trust me), but while you still have the capacity, it’s best also to start mixing in some of the heavier desert items in case you run out of steam further down the road; a piece perhaps of the chocolate fudge cake or a waffle with a blob of ice cream, that kind of thing – obviously use a separate plate.
Now’s the time to grab whatever’s left that you can fit in; I would actually go for the cheaper meats and fish at this stage too, things like chicken nuggets or fish tempura which don’t take up too much space per piece and are generally very low-value at a buffet. Don’t forget also to make a grab for the last few low-occupancy items from the desert table, we’d be talking about pancakes, praline selections (if applicable) and the suchlike. Though you might be full, you’d be surprised how much you can gently fit in as time passes so load this plate right up and take a seat, it’s business time.
Course 5 (Optional) – The Closing Shot
If, and this is completely optional, you still have a bit of space leftover; this is the time to actually enjoy the buffet at your leisure and revisit the favourites by making a plate purely of your favourites. Go for it, knock yourself out and don’t leave until you can only leave by lying down and rolling out.
So this is it – it’s never failed me so far! What about you – what are your buffet strategies or how do you cope with unlimited food?!